Canadian Packaging

Bigger And Better


October 27, 2008
by George Guidoni, Editor

Running a tight ship is often fraught with having to make really tough decisions to stay the course, and in the stormy business climate of the North American containerboard, corrugated and paperboard markets, it really came as little surprise that one of Marc-André Dépin’s first tasks as president and chief executive officer of the St. Bruno, Que.-headquartered Norampac since its high-profile recent merger with the Cascades Boxboard Group was to pull the trigger on one of the company’s long-underperforming assets.

Announced in early July, the closing of the 140-employee Toronto boxboard mill—operated by Cascades Boxboard since 1992—is not the kind of thing that the soft-spoken, 43-year-old Norampac veteran takes any pleasure in doing, but a toxic mix of rising costs for labor, fiber and energy ultimately sealed the fate of the relatively small-sized operation with annual production capacity of 180,000 tons of coated recycled paper.

“Unfortunately, we do not have any other choice at this point than to suspend the mill’s operations,” said Dépin, who joined Norampac as vice-president and COO of sales and marketing for corrugated products back in 1997, when Norampac was originally formed as a joint-venture company of the Kingsey Falls, Que.-based boxboard and tissue giant Cascades Inc.M and the Montreal-based papermaker Domtar Inc.

While Dépin has seen plenty of ups and downs in his first 10 years at Norampac, where he was appointed as president and CEO in 2003, he remains remarkably upbeat about the company’s short- and long-term prospects—drawing much of his optimism from the wealth of “synergies” and cost-savings achieved through the “highly successful” company-wide restructuring that followed the Norampac-Cascades Boxboard merger earlier this year.

“We have been able to create a lot of synergies throughout our combined sales force,” points out Dépin, “while allowing our customers the benefits of being able to have all their boxboard and corrugated needs being taken care of by one single, well-integrated producer with world-class service capabilities.”

Ranking as Canada’s largest producer of both corrugated and boxboard products, the newly-merged Norampac currently employs about 6,000 people—including 1,400 former Cascades Boxboard staff—at 45 different operating units strategically positioned across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, including: seven containerboard mills; three boxboard mills (accounting for the Toronto mill closure); five folding carton plants; 27 corrugated plants; and three administrative/service centers, including the St.-Bruno global headquarters.